Welcoming the Stranger
IVP Books

Welcoming the Stranger

Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate

by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang
Foreword by Leith Anderson

Welcoming the Stranger
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Published: July 2018
  •  Forthcoming
  • ISBN: 978-0-8308-4539-2
  • Item Code: 4539

Immigration is one of the most complicated issues of our time. Voices on all sides argue strongly for action and change. Christians find themselves torn between the desire to uphold laws and the call to minister to the vulnerable.

In this book World Relief immigration experts Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang move beyond the rhetoric to offer a Christian response to immigration. They put a human face on the issue and tell stories of immigrants' experiences in and out of the system. With careful historical understanding and thoughtful policy analysis, they debunk myths and misconceptions about immigration and show the limitations of the current immigration system. Ultimately they point toward immigration reform that is compassionate, sensible, and just as they offer concrete ways for you and your church to welcome and minister to your immigrant neighbors.

This revised edition includes new material on refugees and updates in light of changes in political realities.

"The authors have done a masterful job pulling together the most compelling data and information on immigration and explaining it. This is the only book a Bible-believing person needs to read to understand the importance of immigration reform."

Richard Land, president, The Southern Baptist Ethics Religious Liberty Commission

"A fresh, compelling call from Scripture to live out the gospel with boldness and courage in the twenty-first century. A significant pivotal guide for the church in these times."

Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent, The Wesleyan Church

"In the next forty years there will be an estimated 132 million Latinos in this nation, and a critical concern for our community is fixing our broken immigration system. Welcoming the Stranger is a must-read that helps us to embrace a biblical response to this critical issue."

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association

"Every Christian leader seeking an informed, biblical response to this urgent issue should read this book."

Bill Hybels

"Biblical, urgent, readable. An excellent introduction to this complex moral issue. All thinking evangelicals should read it."

Ronald J. Sider, president, Evangelicals for Social Action

"Thinking of immigration policy requires that we think first about the kingdom of God--God's rule and reign; his plan, will, agenda and story. Only then will we be able to think well through the secondary lenses of nation-states, tribes and ethnicities. The parable of the good Samaritan, while easy to understand, has fallen victim to global, political and economic complexities. Welcoming the Stranger, without being simplistic, clears our thoughts and lights a way forward to love and serve twelve million undocumented neighbors."

Todd Hunter, church planter, The Anglican Mission in the Americas, past president of Alpha USA and Vineyard Churches USA, and author of Christianity Beyond Belief

"A daring and desperate call to remember the story of God that begins with baby Moses being floated down a river in the middle of Pharaoh's genocide and climaxes with God's Son entering the world as a homeless refugee in the middle of Herod's bloodshed. It is a story of immigrants and strangers. This book invites us to participate in the radical inclusion and grace of God. Welcoming the Stranger is written with the urgent sense that we cannot wait for politicians to tell us how to treat immigrants but we simply need to pick up the Bible and reimagine what it means to be the people of God. Here is a reminder that as a people of rebirth our love does not stop at the borders of nations."

Shane Claiborne, author, activist and recovering sinner

"Welcoming the Stranger is a great primer on immigration for the church. It is a historical, current, biblical and theological resource for the person who is trying to understand immigration issues today."

Reverend Luis Cortés Jr., president, Esperanza USA

"Welcoming the Stranger is a must-read for one who desires to take a fresh biblical look at the issue of immigration in the U.S. I believe this is the compassion and justice issue of our day, and we need to do careful work so we are accurate and biblical in our solutions. I wholeheartedly endorse Jenny and Matt's wonderful work and commend it to you for your study."

William J. Hamel, president, Evangelical Free Church of America

"Immigration stands as the metric of whether or not America embraces social justice in the twenty-first century. In Welcoming the Stranger Jenny Hwang and Matt Soerens contextualize the narrative of an issue that requires analysis and discussion not from the extremes of political ideology but rather from a platform of truth, justice and compassion. Jenny and Matt equip us with the necessary acumen to reconcile Romans 13, the rule of law, with Leviticus 19, treating the alien as one of our own. Accordingly, the universal Christian symbol is the cross. The cross is both vertical and horizontal, redemption and transformation, conviction and compassion. This book will challenge us to meet at the point of convergence, the great intersect, where John 3:16 meets Luke 4, immigration via a biblical worldview."

Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, president, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, The Hispanic NAE

"Finally, a book on the immigration challenge that combines head and heart! Soerens and Hwang have experienced both the frustrations and the hopes that come with caring about people in difficult circumstances. This book is deeply personal in a way that helps us all be compassionate, yet it does not dumb down the challenge we all face with our natural propensity for shallow platitudes and partisan politicking. This book helps us find our way as Americans and as Christians to understanding the real issues, and it will help us shape a comprehensive public policy direction that honors both law and love."

Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor, Northland Church, Orlando, Florida

"Drawing from their experience in the trenches, Soerens and Hwang challenge their readers to move beyond the all-too-contentious and simplistic debate and think critically and biblically about what it means to love our immigrant neighbors. Clearly written and theologically informed, Welcoming the Stranger combines evocative stories of real people and the complexities of their lives with lucid explanations of immigration policy. Soerens and Hwang's book offers balanced yet impassioned analysis that is so rare but so essential to help Christians bring their faith to bear on this vexing policy issue."

Amy E. Black, associate professor of political science, Wheaton College, author, Beyond Left and Right

"Justice, compassion and truth are too often missing from the immigration debate in this country. Welcoming the Stranger provides all three with comprehensive information on every aspect of the current problem, its roots and commonsense solutions. Every Christian seeking an informed response to this critical issue should read this book."

Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners

"Immigration is one of the most pressing issues facing our country today. Some twelve million undocumented immigrants live among us, but their lives are largely in the shadows. They are our neighbors and we are theirs. The ethical challenges that face us all are numerous in the legal, economic, educational and health areas. What would God have us do regarding these new neighbors? Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang have made an invaluable contribution to Christians through their book Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate. With great precision and fairness, they lead us through the difficult and thorny ethical issues of immigration. They provide personal stories and abundant statistics. Most of all, they bring God's Word to challenge us to obey God and to welcome the strangers among us. This book is must-reading for every Christian and every congregation that desires to love the strangers in our midst."

Lindy Scott, professor of Spanish and Latin American studies, Whitworth University, and coauthor of Los Evangélicos: Portraits of Latin American Protestantism in the United States

"Here is a book for every Christian and every church leadership team interested in one of the greatest mercy/justice issues of our time: how will the church care for immigrants in our midst? The authors write with sensitivity concerning the volatile emotions on all sides of the debates as they offer essential information designed to help us formulate responses to this very complex issue. Welcoming the Stranger inspired me to expand my heart of compassion and take action."

Paul Borthwick, adjunct professor of missions, Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts

"While Sorens and Hwang may not answer all your questions about the correct response to current immigration policies and, indeed, may even raise more complex questions, they do show us that, if we are to act justly, we will have to consider all its complexities."

Jim Miller, The Daily Sentinel, July 31, 2010

"Welcoming the Stranger offers an introduction to the many aspects of immigration and the controversies surrounding it."

Elizabeth Pearson, The Christian Librarian, vol. 53, no. 1

"Welcoming the Stranger lays the groundwork for and practically equips Christians to continue practicing what it means to follow Christ's commandment to love God and love neighbor in a fallen world."

Kyle Navis, Latin American Theology, vol. 4, no. 2

"Soerens and Hwang argue persuasively that immigration has been and is valuable to the United States."

Marvin Olasky, WORLD, August 15, 2009

"Soerens and Hwang advocate a generous, biblically based invitation to all immigrants to take part in America. This book will not persuade all Christians to support liberalized immigration laws, but even the skeptical should find the authors' approach useful."

Tony Carnes, Christianity Today, May 2009

"Soerens and Hwang have injected justice, compassion, and truth into what needs to become a new conversation on immigration--values that are often in short supply in this debate."

Glen Peterson, Sojourners, June 2009

"Soerens and Hwang do an impressive job making a complex and charged issue accessible for the average reader."

Ben L., Book Bargains and Previews (bookbargainsandpreviews.com), April 2009

"In this highly engaging, well researched and documented book, Soerens and Hwang team up to survey and analyze the history of immigration in the United States and attempt to solve many of the problems that immigration faces through well-reasoned argumentation and personal experience. Most importantly, they do all of this not through the eyes of partisan politics, but rather through the lens of the Christian worldview. Welcoming the Stranger is a timely and important book at a point in America's history where the immigrant population is considerably growing and many Americans seek to 'do something about it.'"

Daniel Seatvet, Christianity in Culture Examiner (examiner.com), March 20, 2009


Foreword by Leith Anderson
1. The Immigration Dilemma
2. “Aliens” Among You: Who Are Undocumented Immigrants?
3. Nation of Immigrants: A Historical Perspective on Immigration to the United States
4. Immigrating the Legal Way: Our Immigration System Today
5. Thinking Biblically About Immigration
6. Concerns About Immigration
7. The Value of Immigrants to the United States
8. Immigration Policies and Politics
9. Immigration and the Church Today
10. A Christian Response to the Immigration Dilemma
Appendix 1: Discussion Questions
Appendix 2: Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform
Appendix 3: Ministries and Organizations Serving Refugees and Other Immigrants in the United States
Appendix 4: Ministries and Organizations Addressing the Root Causes of Immigration
Appendix 5: Selected Resources for Learning More About the Immigration Issue
Appendix 6: Tools for Political Advocacy


Matthew Soerens serves as the US Church Training Specialist for World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. In that role, he helps local churches and denominations to address issues of immigration from a distinctly biblical perspective. Previously, Matthew served as a Board of Immigration Appeals-accredited legal counselor with World Relief's local office in Wheaton, Illinois.

BY Matthew Soerens

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